5. macOS

This chapter describes installation steps specific to Apple macOS. macOS installation of ns-3 requires either the installation of the full Xcode IDE or a more minimal install of Xcode Command Line Tools).

The full Xcode IDE requires 40 GB of disk space. If you are just interested in getting ns-3 to run, the full Xcode is not necessary; we recommend Command Line Tools instead.

In addition to Command Line Tools, some ns-3 extensions require third-party libraries; we recommend either Homebrew or MacPorts. If you prefer, you can probably avoid installing Command Line Tools and install the compiler of your choice and any other tools you may need using Homebrew or MacPorts.

In general, documentation on the web suggests to use either, but not both, Homebrew or MacPorts on a particular system. It has been noted that Homebrew tends to install the GUI version of certain applications without easily supporting the command-line equivalent, such as for the dia application; see ns-3 MR 1247 for discussion about this.

Finally, regarding Python, some ns-3 maintainers prefer to use a virtualenv to guard against incompatibilities that might arise from the native macOS Python and versions that may be installed by Homebrew or Anaconda. Some ns-3 users never use Python bindings or visualizer, but if your ns-3 workflow requires more heavy use of Python, please keep the possibility of a virtualenv in mind if you run into Python difficulties. For a short guide on virtual environments, please see this link.

Due to an upstream limitation with Cppyy, Python bindings do not work on macOS machines with Apple silicon (M1 and M2 processors).

5.1. Requirements

macOS uses the Clang/LLVM compiler toolchain. It is possible to install gcc/g++ from Homebrew and MacPorts, but macOS will not provide it due to licensing issues. ns-3 works on recent versions of both clang++ and g++, so for macOS, there is no need to install g++.

ns-3 Version

Homebrew packages

MacPorts packages

3.36 and later

cmake ninja

cmake ninja

3.35 and earlier



5.3. Optional

Please see below subsections for Python-related package requirements.

For MacPorts packages we show the most recent package version available as of early 2023.


Homebrew packages

MacPort packages

Reading pcap traces



Database support



NetAnim animator



MPI-based distributed simulation



Building Doxygen

doxygen graphviz imagemagick

doxygen graphviz ImageMagick

Sphinx documentation

sphinx-doc texlive

texlive pyXX-sphinx, with XX` the Python version




GNU Scientific Library



XML config store



GTK-based config store


gtk3 or gtk4

Emulation with virtual machines

Not available for macOS

Not available for macOS

Support for openflow, CircularApertureAntennaModel



5.4. Caveats and troubleshooting